In the appointment of Jerry Hoss as pastor of New Horizons United Methodist Church followed by his almost immediate termination, the fundamental flaw in the process was a lack of transparency.
Hoss served as principal of Frankton Jr./Sr. High School and had his contract terminated in 2013 during an investigation into allegations that he sent inappropriate texts to students.
He had asked a 16-year-old student for nude or semi-nude pictures and had sent two photos of himself to her. In one, he was naked from the waist down, according to authorities.
Detectives also said that, while examining Hoss’ cellphone records, they found messages sent in 2010 to a 17-year-old student asking her to come to his house and drink alcohol with him.
In 2015, he pleaded guilty to official misconduct and served 18 months of probation.
New Horizons church members themselves bear little if any of the fault for Hoss’ appointment, since pastors are selected by the bishop of the Indiana United Methodist Church. The Rev. Chris Nunley of the IUMC’s North Central District initially defended Hoss’ appointment on grounds that the church believes in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ.
Less than 24 hours later, Nunley informed The Herald Bulletin that Hoss’ assignment had been terminated in light of new information.
While we can appreciate that forgiveness and redemption are central tenets of the Christian faith, it would seem that total honesty and transparency should be key components, particularly when placing a person in a position of trusted leadership.
Hoss’ appointment created conflict between two important considerations — second chances for those convicted of criminal behavior, and the safety of children. Full disclosure of past transgressions and open channels of communication with all stakeholders should have been imperative.
An open letter to IUMC leadership, received by The Herald Bulletin and signed by more than 845 United Methodists, states that “true repentance also requires us to own our hurtful patterns of behavior and avoid situations that lead us into temptation.”
The letter goes on to emphasize that the church is responsible for the safety of children in its care.
“There are many ways that Mr. Hoss may serve in the church as a disciple of Jesus Christ; pastoral ministry cannot be one of them,” the letter states.
While Hoss has been open about his past struggles with addiction, church leaders and members seem to have been blindsided by news that his conviction involved sexual overtures to an underage girl.
Thorough background checks and full disclosure to all involved would have spared church members a jarring revelation. Churches are private institutions and can make their own decisions, but they should do so while being fully informed and transparent with their members and the communities they serve.